I thought I would take the time to look ahead to the Sabres 2022 offseason and, thus, perform my own mock offseason for the club.
The Trade Market:
Draft Day Deal: Buffalo acquires RHD Connor Murphy from the Chicago Blackhawks for LHD Ryan Johnson, a 2022 First Round Pick (From Florida), and a 2022 4th round pick
This seems like a very steep price to pay for Murphy, but considering what right handed defenseman go for on the market, and good quality right handed defenseman being about as scare as a bottle of Lysol wipes and toilet paper in the beginning of a pandemic, it's not too far off.
While it may seem steep to include former 31st overall selection Ryan Johnson, Buffalo appears more than set on the left side with Sammuelson, Dahlin, and Power, all of whom are under 22-years old.
Buffalo is rumored to be big on trying to get a guy who can play opposite of Owen Power, and my gut says a veteran stabilizing presence with size, physicality, and also skates well. The Blackhawk's defense has problems, but Connor Murphy is far from it. Of course, there is the Don Granato connection from Chicago as an added bonus.
Murphy recently signed an extension with Chicago which includes a no-trade clause, however, that will not kick in until after July 1st. He signed a four year, 17.6 million extension with a 4.4 million dollar cap hit for the next four years. He is also a major bargain for what he does.
Acquired Sean Walker from the Los Angeles Kings for LW Victor Olafsson
The Sabres don't just stop at Connor Murphy here. They also make a call to Los Angeles about defenseman Sean Walker from the Kings, who is coming off a torn ACL and MCL, and will be into his third of fourth year.
Once upon a time, the Detroit Red Wings took a flyer on Robby Fabbri who was also coming off a major knee injury for close to nothing. Needless to say it's paid off for them.
Sean Walker is a very capable right handed defenseman who is an outstanding puck mover, and is capable of producing at a 30 point pace from the blueline. The Kings right side is also quite crowded, and other players have stepped up in his absence.
Walker if healthy is a player who can challenge for top four minutes on some teams, and is capable of playing on the second power play unit as well as the penalty kill.
As for Victor Olafsson, when he's on, and rhythm, he can score goals. He may be perceived as a one-trick pony to some, but it's still a nice. But, I feel confident I would be able to replace his production in free agency, or within the system by means of Jack Quinn, who can do everything Olafsson can do, while providing a good two-way game.
2022 NHL Draft
First Round: (7th to 12th overall): Frank Nazar RW/C University of Michigan
The Sabres look to the University of Michigan two-years in a row, taking Nazar with their first round selection. He is one of the best skaters in the draft, and is not only a great scorer, but a solid defensive forward as well. He is also one of the safer prospects in the draft because of his defensive capabilities. With his skating, vision, hockey IQ, and possession abilities, Nazar has the potential to be a really good middle-six forward, with the ceiling to be a top-six centerman. At 5'10, 180 lbs, Nazar is one of the hardest working players in the draft, and in a couple years, he would really fit in well with the culture the Sabres are trying to build.
First Round: (14th to 20th overall from Vegas): Seamus Casey, RHD, University of Michigan
The Sabres look to the University of Michigan yet again, and the Sabres add a strong transitional defenseman to replenish their right-handed prospect pool. Casey has a great traits to quarterback the power play, including a deceptive shot, but don't like his 5'10, 160 pound frame fool you, he's a very good defenseman in his own end. Casey is one of the best puck handing defenseman in the draft, which borderline elite. and he also has outstanding vision and excels at scanning the ice and finding plays. He needs to improve his skating, he is a good skater, but what he needs is that extra gear to seperate, especially for his size. He also can be a physical presence on the ice, however, he is going to need to add some size and bulk if he is going to have any elements of a physical game in the pros. He's not going to be a guy should be in the NHL within a year or two like Nazar could be. He's a guy that will need time to refine aspects of his game, add bulk, work on his agility and skating, and he should take a couple years in college to do this. He may even be served well to do a year in the AHL. If you're patient, Casey could pay off big time. He has the potential to be a number two or three defenseman with the ability to lead a top power play unit.
Signed Reilly Smith, four years, 5.25 million per season
If the Sabres finish out strong, they may be inclined to use some of their cap space, and it's possible they may be able to sign someone successfully. Smith is a very good two-way forward who can play in all situations, with leadership qualities and plenty of big game experience. He would drastically improve the Sabre penalty kill.
Signed Braden Holtby G, two years, 3.75 million per season
Prior to this season, Holtby had a really rough past couple years in Vancouver, and his last season in Washington. The former Stanley Cup Champion has revived his career in Dallas, and could be ready to take on a starting role again for another team. The Sabres will need to look for ways to solidify goaltending next season. Craig Anderson can be brought back, but he will be 41-years old, and at his age, if he continues to play, it will be tough to ask him to play a lot of games. If Anderson doesn't return, I would look to Brian Elliott to fill his role. Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen had his moments last year when he played, however, it still will be tough to evaluate him. He has played fairly good enough at the NHL level, but had struggles in the AHL. I think having Anderson around to compete and mentor him would be a solid game plan for next season. Devon Levi should also be brought into the fold next season.
Signed Nicolas Deslauriers LW, two years, 1.8 million per season
While the Sabres did bring in John Hayden for pennies on the dollar to provide some muscle, the team could upgrade and get more value by bringing back Deslauriers. who not only is one of the best fighters in the league and hits like a truck, but can also kill penalties and provide another potential penalty killer to the lineup.
Re-Signed Vinnie Hinostroza, RW, two years, 2.25 million per season
Hinostroza has been a nice pick up at an affordable cost for the middle six, and should be a quality supporting cast member for next season. His goal scoring pace is currently around 20 goals, and he is doing it with no power play time. He has been a nice value find, and should be a player the Sabres look to keep.
Re-Signed Cody Eakin C, one year, 1.75 million.
Cody Eakin has been the Sabres best faceoff man for the past two years, and brings a gritty, feisty style of play to the lineup. Scoring will always be a shortfall of his game, but he is a good candidate for fourth line center for this group.
Captain: Kyle Okposo
Alternate Captain: Alex Tuch
Alternate Captain: Zemgus Girgensons
Kyle Okposo is the guy the players clearly look at as a leader and this has been reportedly the case even when Eichel was here. He’s also been though thick and thin with this team. With the respect he has in the Buffalo locker room, he deserves it for next year in his final year. Alex Tuch will likely succeed him. Several years down the road, it's possible we are talking about Dylan Cozens or Rasmus Dahlin as captain.